Every part of the body, from the least significant to the obviously important, has its own special role – you know what they say, the nose can’t run and the feet can’t smell! Seriously though, at the first sign of trouble in the hands or fingers, timeously checking the state of the wrist anatomy could save a job, a sports career and a great deal of pain and inconvenience besides.
Let’s introduce you to your carpel tunnels. Made of bone and ligaments, the passageway in each wrist where nine tendons and the median nerve pass through, is called the carpal tunnel. When overstressed, the wrist swells, squeezing the medial nerve. The result is tingling, numbness and pain in the hands and fingers and the name of the game is carpal tunnel syndrome a.k.a. CTS.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tingling, numbness and pain in the fingers: often starting at night as most people sleep with bent wrists.
- Pain, numbness and tingling up the forearm to the shoulder.
- Swollen fingers: it may only be a feeling while your fingers appear to look fine.
- “Shocks”: intermittent sudden pains in the thumb and forefingers (pinky fingers are exempt in CTS).
- Weakening grip: in time you may struggle to grip things, make a fist or pinch your fingers together to do up buttons, for example.
A word of caution though – just because you have tingling and occasional numbness in your fingers, doesn’t mean you have CTS. Impinged nerves in the neck cause similar effect in the fingers. Specialists will want to rule out two other mimics, cubital tunnel syndrome and ulnar
tunnel syndrome, which affect the pinky and ring fingers particularly. Another strong contender in the imposter category is pronator teres syndrome (PTS) where the thumb, index, middle and half the ring finger present with pain, numbness and tingling.
If, however, you’re experiencing symptoms during the day at all, after holding a phone to your ear for a long call, reading the paper, or after driving where your wrists are locked in a fixed position for long periods, it’s time to get help for your carpel tunnels.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you visited us during early onset for example, and carpal tunnel syndrome was diagnosed, you may only need rest or a wrist brace and some anti-inflammatory medication.
You may very well be advised to avoid repetitive movements involving wrist action. Wearing wrist splints at night or even all day, does help.
When indicated, an anti-inflammatory injection is made directly into the carpal tunnel.
Most commonly, endoscopic surgery successfully relieves the pressure on the median nerve by cutting the transverse carpel ligament, which serves the purpose of making room for the nerve in the carpel tunnel. New tissue grows to repair the ligament eventually so, no lasting harm done! There is a tiny wrist scar and recovery is quick.
Prevention of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There’s no real way to prevent trouble in the carpal tunnel other than not to fob off the first hint of it so that it doesn’t become a syndrome. The moment there are tingling sensations in your fingers, focus on taking strain off the wrists – admittedly, that’s not so easy if your job depends on such manoeuvres. Assembly line workers, mechanics and gardeners with carpal tunnel Syndrome find certain aspects of their work very painful to perform. As soon as inflammation begins, rest may arrest full blown CTS. Taking anti-inflammatories and wearing a wrist brace or splint will help but one wouldn’t want to go on with a regime like that without medical supervision.
Phalen’s sign Carpel Tunnel test:
Holding both arms straight out in front of you, Flex both wrists and then let your hands hand down for 60 seconds – that’s right, “Mississippi 1, Mississippi 2 …” Any feeling of pain or tingling or numbness within those 60 seconds is a carpel tunnel indicator.
If in doubt, let us check it out for you